Director Mark Sandrich’s intriguing, meticulous and carefully made 1936 RKO soap opera is spurred by a typically spirited, charming performance by Katharine Hepburn as Pamela Thistlewaite, the rebellious Victorian English woman who flouts convention by having a child out of wedlock as she battles for women’s rights in the late 1800s.
While Hepburn’s fiery, rebel, feminist persona is extremely attractive and relevant today, many Thirties audiences rejected it as strident and off-putting. The film did not do well and around this time Hepburn was then labelled as box-office poison. Indeed, though the film is more than 80 years old, its feminist message is still surprisingly valid.
There is strong star character actor support for the star from Herbert Marshall as suave Thomas Lane, Donald Crisp as stern Judge Byron Thistlewaite, Elizabeth Allan, Doris Dudley, David Manners, Lucile Watson as Betty Bumble and Van Heflin in his début as Lord Gerald Waring Gaythorne.
The screenplay by Anthony Veiller and Ernst Vajda is based on Netta Syrett’s novel Portrait of a Rebel.
© Derek Winnert 2016 Classic Movie Review 3937
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